Why Entrepreneurs Stress More Now Than Ever & What to Do About It

9 min read
Jul 17, 2022

No, it is not your imagination: entrepreneur stress is higher than ever.

Even though the business world is more resource-abundant than ever, stress is getting the best of many entrepreneurs.

Unfortunately, high stress comes with an even higher price tag.

By that, I mean high stress comes at the expense of:

  • Mental health
  • Innovation
  • Business growth

I am sharing why entrepreneurs feel more stressed than ever to help CEOs like you get a better grip on life and business.

Also, I’m sharing how to manage stress levels to prevent getting run over.

Do you think you know why CEOs are more stressed than ever?

I guarantee it is not what you think!

 

Why Is Being an Entrepreneur so Stressful?

 

Stress and entrepreneurship are like bread and butter.

Stress inevitably comes with the territory of running a successful business.

It is the price to pay for being in the arena instead of the audience!

However, stress does not need to and should not overwhelm a business owner.

Even though stress is inevitable, it does not need to consume you.

Here is why stress is an inevitable part of the entrepreneurial journey.

 

Entrepreneurship = Discomfort

First, being an entrepreneur forces you out of your comfort zone.

As you know, human nature despises discomfort.

The moment the body senses discomfort is when it sounds the alarm bells.

Even if the discomforting situation is not dangerous or threatening, the body still interprets it as a potential threat.

Being a successful entrepreneur forces you to get uncomfortable in several ways. 

For example, ditching the typical 9 to 5 lifestyle is more stressful than most people can handle!

It does not matter if you run a large or small business or the industry.

Running any business forces business leaders out of their comfort zone.

 

Discomfort = Stress

Like I said above, human nature despises getting out of the comfort zone.

It sounds the internal alarm bell if you even peep your head over the edge of discomfort!

The alarm bell creates the sensation of stress.

Human nature sounds the stress bell thanks to evolution.

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, human ancestors needed to be hyper-vigilant of discomfort.

For our ancestors, discomfort was the equivalent of entering the same territory as a sabre tooth tiger or not having a warm cave to sleep in as a storm approached.

Our ancestors would have faced higher death rates without the internal stress bell.

While most of us do not regularly encounter tigers or sleep in caves, our brains still have the same discomfort-stress response system as our ancestors had.

Furthermore, successful business owners face discomfort, which sounds the stress alarm bells.

 

Stress Comes With the Territory (It Will Never Go Away)

I will not beat around the bush: It is impossible to destroy entrepreneurial stress.

Running a business will always require discomfort, and humans instinctively respond with stress.

Therefore, successful people like you should focus less on getting rid of stress and more on managing it.

Managing stress is about not letting stress stand in your way and even using it to your advantage.

 

How do entrepreneurs handle stress?

 

What Stressors Do Most Entrepreneurs Face?

 

In short- Stress is not unique to entrepreneurs!

Recent polls show that 84% of Americans feel stress weekly.

That said, most business owners face a double-whammy of stress: First, they face the same stressors the general population experiences, plus the unique stressors of being a business owner.

Here is a mix of some of the top stressors entrepreneurs face.

 

Reaching Their Fullest Potential

First, entrepreneurs have a unique stressor constantly nagging them: reaching their full business potential.

Many CEOs put their entire lives on the line to become business owners because they believe in their own potential.

However, just because a CEO dives into running a business does not mean they are always 100% sure they will reach their potential.

Moreover, every entrepreneur doubts whether or not they will reach the potential they believe they have.

That said, getting the validation of knowing they are fulfilling their potential is a unique and considerable stressor for CEOs.

 

Work-Life Balance

Many Americans report high stress over work-life balance.

However, many CEOs feel this stressor at intensely high levels.

As a business owner, you have to work harder than every employee. 

Working harder sometimes requires working longer hours than usual.

At the same time, many CEOs start a business because they want more time freedom.

Instead of being on their boss’s clock, they want to be on their own clock.

The toss-up between having to work long hours while wanting to take advantage of time freedom creates a unique time management stress.

You know I strongly believe in not letting work consume your life.

Taking time to relax is essential for your well-being AND business growth.

However, balancing between work and life is challenging to say the least.

 

Most of the Same Stressors the General Population Experiences

If you look at the bigger picture, you will see that business owners face most of the same stressors as the general population.

Just because you are a CEO does not mean you do not stress over loved ones, access to healthcare, or paying the bills on time.

Regardless of what you see on social media, CEOs are humans too!

Therefore, they face most of the same stressors as the general population in addition to CEO-related stressors.

 

Why Entrepreneurs Stress More Today Than Ever Before

 

Entrepreneurs have always experienced stress, and they always will.

There is no way to get around discomfort. Therefore stress will always be in the picture.

However, reports show higher feelings of stress today than ever.

Why?

We have more luxuries and conveniences today than ever, so how can CEOs be more stressed today?

Here is why, and the reason will probably surprise you.

 

Entrepreneurs Respond Emotionally to Stressors More Than Ever

I am dropping a bomb: CEOs are NOT experiencing more stressors than ever.

The number of stressors in the business world is low compared to the past.

HOWEVER, CEOs feel more stressed than ever.

What gives?

Why do they feel more stressed if CEOs are not experiencing more stressors?

Here is why- CEOs are responding to stressors with emotions unlike ever before,

These days, CEOs feel stress and respond to it with emotions.

The emotional responses to stress make CEOs feel stressed out.

Think of it like this: If somebody says something offensive, the offensive statement might make you uncomfortable and cause stress. 

However, responding to the induced stress with an emotion like anger makes it sting 100x more.

Similarly, if you run into a stressful business problem, responding to it with anger or sadness makes the stress significantly worse.

Furthermore, entrepreneurs DO NOT face more stressors than ever, yet they feel more stressed than ever because they respond more emotionally than ever.

 

Getting Emotional Over Stress Makes It Feel Ten Times Worse

You are powerful because you can choose how to respond to situations.

Unfortunately, many CEOs these days respond terribly to stress. As a result, they lose their power.

Instead of choosing not to respond with emotions, they allow the heat of the moment to get the best of them.

That said, getting emotional over a stressful situation makes the stress feel 10x worse than it really is.

Hence, why CEOs feel more stressed than ever!

It is not that there are more stressors. Instead, CEOs are responding to stress with emotions, making the existing stress feel worse than it is.

If you want to feel less stressed, the secret is not letting emotions come into play.

Before getting emotional, choose not to let feelings get the best of you.

The moment you allow emotions to override you is the moment a stressful situation goes from ten to one hundred.

 

Ignoring Stress Leads to Burnout

Here is the catch: You cannot ignore stress to prevent emotional responses.

CEOs head towards a burnout phase when they ignore stress.

A burnout phase is when you feel completely exhausted or burnt out over work. 

That said, do not ignore stress unless you want it to accumulate and cause you to burn out.

The better thing to do is practice not getting so emotional when stress hits (thankfully, I’m sharing tips on how to do this below!).

 

causes of entrepreneurial stress

 

CEOs Will Never Get Rid of Stress (& They Should Not Want To)

 

Like I already said, CEOs will never get rid of stress because the source of stress will never disappear.

Stressful situations are inevitable for business owners because discomfort will always exist.

Therefore CEOs are better off managing stress levels.

Unlike getting rid of stress completely, stress management is realistic.

The key to managing stress is preventing emotional responses to stress (more on this below)!

Also, experiencing mental stress in many ways HELPs CEOs become better business leaders.

 

Stress Is Not Inherently Bad

Remind yourself that stress is not an inherently bad thing.

Will sustaining high-stress levels over a long period raise your blood pressure, cause anxiety, and create other problems?

Yes, but that is if you fail to manage it over time!

That said, reminding yourself that experiencing stress is not inherently grim is the first step to managing it.

Feeling stressed? 

It is okay. 

It is not okay to not manage stress and respond emotionally to it.

 

How to Manage Stress as an Entrepreneur & Use It to Your Advantage

 

Here are strategies for CEOs like you to manage stress levels.

Each strategy helps you control your emotional response to stressful situations.

From now on, use these strategies to keep your emotional response to stress low.

By doing so, you will feel less stressed than ever before.

Remember, you are not trying to remove stress entirely.

Instead, you are managing it by reducing unnecessary emotional responses to stress.

Your power lies in your ability to respond to stress without emotions! 

Control emotions to control stress.

 

Practicing Gratitude Everyday

First, be grateful that you have the opportunity to be a business owner in the first place.

Better yet, be grateful that you have the technology to read this sentence!

If you are a business owner, you are blessed.

Being blessed as a business owner means you have more responsibilities than the average person, including facing extra stress.

Remember, getting something for nothing does not exist! 

Extra stress is the price you pay for being in the arena instead of sitting on the sidelines.

That said, instead of feeling bad for yourself over having added stress, be grateful for the position you have.

You can choose to be sad about stress or be thankful you get to experience it because you are a business owner!

 

Practicing Getting Uncomfortable

Second, discomfort induces stress.

The more discomfort you experience, the less likely you will stress and get emotional over it.

Therefore, practice getting into uncomfortable situations regularly.

For example, try a challenging new activity every weekend.

Instead of sitting comfortably on the couch, try something new like rock climbing or kayaking.

Even small challenges like scaling a fake rock wall are enough to get you out of your comfort zone (and have fun in the process!).

Moreover, get familiar with being uncomfortable. 

The more familiar you get, the less likely you respond to discomfort with unnecessary emotions.

 

Calling Out Stress When You Feel It (Do Not Ignore It)

Like I already said, ignoring stress leads to burnout.

Putting your head down and grinding away does not make stress magically disappear. 

Instead, it makes the stress pile up.

The next time you feel stressed, try doing deep breathing exercises rather than ignoring it.

Taking deep breaths helps stabilize your heart rate and reorients you in the present moment.

By looking around in the present moment, you will see there is little to stress about!

Small actions like taking deep breaths are more impactful than you think. 

Additionally, I suggest taking regular breaks throughout your work day.

When I say breaks, I do NOT mean opening your phone and endlessly scrolling.

Instead, I mean going for a short walk or sitting on a park bench doing nothing.

Recognize stress and then reorient yourself before emotions take over.

 

Avoiding Seeking Out the Wrong Kind of Support

Seeking out stress support is one of the biggest mistakes business owners make.

However, not all stress support is bad for you.

I am talking about the kind of stress support in which a group of people wallow in stress without doing anything to solve it.

Endlessly venting without coming up with solutions does not help in the least bit.

Moreover, sitting around talking about stress all day will not help you feel less stressed. 

Instead, it increases the odds you respond with emotions

The idea is to get support from the people around you without talking about stress 24/7.

Perhaps the best person to seek stress support from is a CEO coach. Coaches know how to listen without letting you wallow in sorrow!

Always talking about stress will not make you less emotional about it.

Instead, it will normalize stress in an unhealthy way.

 

Always Moving Forward

Finally and most importantly, always move forward in the face of stress.

Take regular breaks and check your emotional responses, but do not let stress stop you forever.

Stopping in your tracks because you feel too stressed will not necessarily reduce your stress levels. 

In many cases, it will only make it worse.

Instead, use the above strategies to mitigate emotional stress responses. Then, keep moving forward.

The dividing line between the most successful entrepreneurs and those who barely scratch the surface is whether or not they press forward in response to stress.

As you can imagine, the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who experience stress but do not let it stop them.

 

Final Thoughts on Handling Stress as an Entrepreneur

 

Getting a grip on stress is about getting a grip on emotions.

Stress will run over you and your business unless you get a grip on emotions!

Do NOT let yourself emotionally respond to stress.

Will you take control of stress by taking control of your emotions? 

Or will you let emotions control you and subsequently ruin your mental health and business?

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